19 November 2013 | Spikeopath
It takes all kinds to make a world. Especially suckers.
Crashout is directed by Lewis R. Foster, who also co-adapts the screenplay with Hal E. Chester. It stars William Bendix, Arthur Kennedy, Luther Adler, William Talman, Gene Evans and Christopher Olsen. Music is by Leith Stevens and cinematography by Russell Metty.
Six convicts crashout of prison and embark on a life and death struggle to reach safety
As tough as hobnail boots, Crashout is right there in the upper echelons of convict based film noir. There's not exactly anything new here on formula terms, the cons are angry macho men, each one has their own hang ups, and each one has their respective flaws. Be it religious maniac, fantasist, psychopath or the one who doesn't belong in this company, it's a roll call of familiar convict types. Yet the performances are so strong, the tension so tight, all worries about familiarity breeding contempt disappears the moment the men hide out in a disused mine. For here we learn about their psychological make-ups, and quickly buy into the fractured dynamic that we know is going to result in a machismo fuelled implosion.
The warden said dead or alive and he didn't say which.
Narrative strength comes by way of the fact the leader of the group, Van Morgan Duff (Bendix), is very injured and needs medical help. An out and out cold blooded brute, Duff wisely strikes a deal to split a pot load of hidden loot with the group, thus ensuring he gets to stay alive and in charge! The men then traverse the lands and encounter civilians, which in turn throws up some potent and tense filled scenarios. Murder and violence does follow, the film pretty brutal for the time, while the question of if anyone survives till the end looms large throughout.
You can take the con out of the jail, but you can't take the jail out of the con.
Lewis and Metty do a fine job of cloaking the picture with rugged toughness. Often the camera is up close and personal to reveal the grime, blood or sweat that oozes from the men. Scenes of the guys breaking bottles to use as weapons, a hand caked with hot candle wax, or Duff laid down in the dirt with ants crawling over him, it's all relevant to making these cons as tough as they come. We are not meant to like them, to root for them, they are outcasts of society and we know it. Visually it scores best when in the claustrophobic confines of the cave, and with an extended night sequence at Dexter rail station that's bathed in shadows and murky lights.
Pulsing with fatalism and dripping with dread, Crashout is highly recommended to those after a tough cons on the lam film noir. 8.5/10